Sen. Rob Portman’s surprising retirement announcement Monday, despite previously indicating plans to run for reelection, put the capstone on the GOP’s acquiescence to Trumpism. While Portman cited partisan gridlock as driving his decision, the reality is that his bipartisan instincts and genial tone were increasingly out of step in a party defined by grievance. Even though Portman was favored to win a third term, he would have faced political pressure to toe the party line in the runup to next year’s primary. Portman’s decision now creates a wide-open Senate race in a Trump-friendly battleground that will speak volumes about the direction of the Republican Party.
“If you want to spend all your time going on Fox and be[ing] an asshole, there’s never been a better time to serve,” said Republican strategist Corry Bliss, a longtime adviser to Portman. “But if you want to spend all your time being thoughtful and getting shit done, there’s never been a worse time to serve.”